Postcard from Elba, Italy...and the French word for "puddle of water"
Audacity and "avoir du culot": going beyond the limits in Elba, Italy

Chantier or construction site + A hole in the wall is better than un trou dans la tête! Caution while sleeping....

Kitchen renovation france
Our kitchen here in La Ciotat. See a before picture at the end of this archive post.

Today's Word: le chantier

    : construction site, building site, work zone

Book: 365 Days of French Expressions: Learn one new French Expression per Day

Depuis notre retour de l'ile d'Elbe, Kristi, Smokey, et moi, vivons dans un chantier. Nous essayons de "go with the flow," c'est-à-dire de lâcher prise
Since our return from Ebla Island, Kristi, Smokey, and I are living in a work zone. We are trying to go with the flow, or "let go."

Click here to listen to this sentence with "le chantier"


    by Kristi Espinasse

Pulling up to our driveway after our one-week escapade, I asked my husband if he had papillons in his stomach--because I sure did. Butterflies galore! We were about to see what our La Ciotat home, where we moved 7 months ago, looked like one week into the renovation. Our contractor, Monsieur D., had sent photos during the week, and we were amazed at the progress we'd seen in the 5 days since the demolition.

Opening the front door the salon appeared much bigger than before thanks to the removal of the hall wall. And everything was so tidy--nickel chrome! as my friend Sophie used to say (she's the one who used to answer, "in the crapper" or dans les chiottes! every time her husband asked where were his glasses, keys, or other absentmindedly-placed things. But I digress--je m'écarte du sujet! And today's topic, which is also the word-of-the-day, is our chantier.... 

Looking around the rez-de-chaussée of our 1960s-built house, a thin veil of microfine dust hung in the air. Beyond, I could see the exposed walls of our kitchen, where all the sunny yellow tiles had been removed. A pang of nostalgia now pushed away all those butterflies, but they would be back. As everyone says, It will all be worth it in the end!

Kitchen remodel before after
The day the realtor showed us the house

Moving through the fog, we could see the flagstone floor which looked even cleaner than before. Jean-Marc and I were impressed, but that sentiment soon turned to perplexed as we headed upstairs to set down our suitcases....

There, beside the tête de lit--alarmingly close to where we rest our heads as we read in bed--was a hole in the wall the size of a golfball! We stood staring at that neverending trou until finally Jean-Marc picked up the phone and called Monsieur D., who hurried right over in time to say.... "Whoops!" (or some combination of French words that amounted to uh-oh spaghettio. Indeed, our Sardinian chef de chantier had made a wee error in calculation when it came to rewiring one of the downstairs bedrooms.  

We were quick to forgive Monsieur D. as, up until now, he had been nickel chrome, or impeccable, in all his work. That said, I took extra precaution in taking my nap yesterday...moving my pillow all the way to the foot of the bed, where I cautiously rested my head as the pounding and drilling continued downstairs. A few feet away from the vibrating wall, I made a cozy nest for Smokey, who slept on the floor beside me and a slew of displaced things. Two more months to go....


Click on the center of the screen, below, to watch the video--where you will see the hole in our bedroom wall. The photo begins on our nightstand, where you'll see one of my favorite books, The Man Who Planted Trees, available in French and in English, below.


papillon = butterfly
le salon = living room
nickel chrome = impeccable
c'est nickel! = it's perfect! it's fantastic! it's amazing!
dans les chiottes = in the crapper
s'écarter du sujet = to digress
le chantier = the work zone, construction site
le rez-de-chaussée = ground floor, first floor
le trou = hole
le chef de chantier = contractor

One of my favorite books is Jean Giono's The Man Who Planted Trees, (available here). It is short and sweet and has an important message. Do check it out. It is also available here, in French

Paris Peace T-Shirt available in a rainbow of colors

Embryolisse - face moisturizer from France with so many uses. See the reviews!


Smokey sleeping during chantier

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Briony Jones

Bon courage! Suggest an exhaustive trawl of the best spots for lunch breakfast and supper in La Ciotat and close by for a saleable review or a fruit and nut and seed sprouts diet to add to your longevity!


I can't wait to see the finished project!

Cynthia G

Quelle pagaille! But two months passes quickly and then you'll have your forever kitchen and stunning sitting room. Bon Courage my friend!

Suzanne Dunaway

Oh, fixing up houses is so much fun. Beaucoup des adventures! We have survived four...lyour house is going to be lovely. Love the brick in la cuisine.


I can't wait to see either:)!

Gail L from AZ

It will all be worth the noise, dust and inconvenience when all is finished and restored. You’re making memories!! ❤️

Ally Davis

Living through renovations especially kitchen renovations can be tough! Bon courage! Great expressions and words today!! Your post-c’était nickel!!

Karen Graham

The Man Who Planted Trees is one of my favorite books, too. I even found an audio version with a music background that I loved. Good luck with the renovations. No fun but once done you will enjoy it.


Oops!! Seems like a very big hole for wiring but I know nothing of such things. Lots of story material in a home remodel. Have fun and keep laughing. Thanks for sharing.

Brenda of SF


Interesting the French word for "contractor." It seems as if the root word "chant"
for sing or song is in there. Does you contractor sing as he works?



Yikes, Oh La La and Grrrrrrr...... Le trou.
I feel your construction pain Kristi and will not sugar coat it.
Sorry about the hole where your heads go!

Judith Dunn

..... Kristin.... Please get the chantier to plug up that hole! Spiders may want to tour your bedroom! YIKES! We are living with a 'zone de chantier just outside my bedroom. We are having our deck rebuilt and believe me i have seen and 'tuer' many off the beasts! Just sayin...................

PS..... Your place will be fabulous when all is finished. Bon courage.....

Darcey Small


I'm sure it will be well worth it. However, not to be a downer, but my motto on remodeling/construction has become "double the money and double the time". Hope you escape that situation!

Dawn Johnson

In September 2011, we had just returned from my nephew’s wedding in Southern California, we had our first trip to Provence scheduled in a few weeks, then my mother in law passed away all at the same time construction began on my new kitchen. It made for a very hectic fall especially with the upcoming holidays, the work was completed four days before Christmas. Many times I let the tears fall into the bathtub as I washed my dishes, so many frustrating moments and I often wondered what I got myself into, but in the end it was all totally worth it as I knew it would be. I’ve really enjoyed my new kitchen and can’t hardly remember what the old one looked like.

Gail in Tucson

Have you read L'Appart by David Lebovitz, the story of his apartment renovation in Paris? It's a bit funny/sad and he had too many trials and tribulations but he did get his big, bright kitchen in the end. I'm sure your renos will go much more smoothly! I loved his account of all the new vocabulary he had to learn.

joie in Carmel

Seeing the before of the kitchen I can see why a remodel was in order. You will love it. Just think of the wonderful meals you will be able to make. Looks like it will be open to the dining area? So how are you cooking now. I know when mine was being done I used a hot plate and microwave in a bedroom. The refrigerator(old one)was in the LR. It worked just fine. On Thurs. I start bathroom work. They are going to take out the tub and put in a shower. To get the tub out, the outside wall to which it is attached has to come partly out....a big, big hole. I do have another toilette in the house, but no shower. Hot tub? or trips out to my sisters.


Bonjour, Kristi,
It’s raining in California! Hurrah! I can hardly stand the suspense—what will your new kitchen look like? Bon chance!

beth mcnamara

Bonjour Kristi- My husband and son are remodeling contractors in the Portland, Ore. metro area,so I know a few things about the state you must be in! The two of them say that "living in your house while you remodel CAN be somewhat like being awake throughout your own tonsillectomy", but it doesn't HAVE to be that way. Communication with your contractor is key, and sounds like you've nailed that down, so to speak. And if your contractor curtains off/plastic drapes the work area and cleans up daily you'll feel a lot more sane. You'll learn to adjust to a microwave in the living room, and doing dishes in the bath(as I seem to recall you've done before...). And another perk- no need to bother cleaning the rest of house when part of it is temporarily torn to smithereens!!! What I've found is that I become very controlling (watch out!) during such a process, to counteract the out-of-control sense that can set in when your space is "evolving". I wish I'd offered you a escape to our home here in the beautiful Willamette Valley (10 minutes from where Jean-Marc did his recent wine tasting in Lake Oswego!). Maybe one day we can trade houses for a bit (with an overlap of course). Take heart that your project will delight you in the end; it WILL be worth it. You'll be making yogurt cakes in no time.
I love your blog. You've made a great life and write beautifully about it. Thank you. Beth McNamara


Our dear Kristi,
As always,getting to the completed,beautiful conclusion is not an easy journey,and far easier said than done,but,bottom line,you ARE making progress!
I so remember(and not too fondly) our renovations,complete with mess,clean up and exasperation,but years later,these things seem to fade in memory and what's continually in the forefront nw is the happiness each day brings.
We treasure being part of your journey.
(And in the meantime,HANG ON!!)
Natalia XO

Barb Michels

Leave it to the French to make even the word for construction zone sound pretty.


Bon courage, dear Kristi! Renovations are a headache, for sure, but the results will be well worth it.

Gayle Markow

I've been through two renovations, one when I first moved in to my home 20 years ago, and another of the kitchen 5 years ago. Both were hell, and I shed many tears and felt like Il'd lost years in my life. The results were both times "worth it" in the end, but I vowed that IF I ever attempted another renovation I would definitely move out for the whole thing, sublet a studio, whatever, just not be there with all the dust, disorder, and angst. I def. feel for you!
xo, Gayle

Valerie T Diaz

I renovated my kitchen and half renovated my bathroom and then three weeks later took out the tub to put in a shower the contractors worked well into the night I made lots of coffee and they did clean up after ever session


Hi Kristi,
Home renovations could really be overwhelming. Been through quite a lot of renovations in our previous and current home and it was quite a lot to take in but definitely satisfying and worth it especially if everything went exactly as planned :)


Hi Kristi,
Home renovations could really be overwhelming. Been through quite a lot of renovations in our previous and current home and it was quite a lot to take in but definitely satisfying and worth it especially if everything went exactly as planned :)

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